Defining Roles and Getting Players to Buy-In
One of the biggest challenges we face as coaches is getting our players to consistently buy in and put what’s best for the team’s success above their individual goals. I had a pitching coach in junior college once tell me that every season I took the mound I was going to have my best stuff 25% of the time, my worst 25% of the time, and the other 50% was going to determine my ceiling for success. I believe the same holds true in basketball and we need to find creative ways to get our players to buy in on those nights where we don’t have our best stuff and put the team’s goals ahead of their own.
At our first practice each year we tell our team the only way we will be successful is if everyone buys in to their role on this team. We commit to them that we will not ask them to do anything that they aren’t capable of and in return they will attempt whatever is asked of them without hesitation. We need each player to believe that they have the most important role on our team and that we CAN NOT win without them playing that role.
One season our coaches brought us together a few weeks in to our season and had a projector set up. On each slide they had listed each player’s greatest strengths and weaknesses and how that player was going to help the team win that season. Some had things like “We expect this player to be one of our top scorers and take the bulk of our shots” while others had things like “We need you to bring an intensity to practice each day that will push the rest of us.” I loved this because when we walked out of that room we all understood exactly what our coaches expected of us as a team, and as individuals.
My first year in junior college our coach had us standing on the baseline and asked us “Who was the leading scorer for their team as a High School Senior?” and the majority of us raised our hands. He then asked “How many of you were an all-state player as a Senior?” and all of us raised our hands. He shrugged his shoulders and said “Guys, to be successful this year we are going to have to get some of you to play roles you haven’t before” and walked away. We all stood there for a moment, a little stunned by the weight and impact of the comment. This was our first step toward realizing we were going to have to make sacrifices as individuals if we were to be successful that season. This proved to be helpful as we all began mentally preparing for the inevitable fact that we were going to have to adjust our individual strengths to help build the best team we could be.
Below are a few things that we do to get our players to buy-in to the importance of the role they play:
1. Ask each player how they think they can most help the team – give them some ownership in the decision
2. Acknowledge your players when they are successful in their role
3. Be consistent and honest in your messages to your team – they will know if you are “blowing smoke”
4. Build trust by putting players in roles they can be successful in
5. Tell players that their roles can change, but it will be up to them to show you why it should change. This is especially good for the players that are dissatisfied with your evaluation of the role you want them to play
Coach Justin Duke
Played at Linn Benton CC for two years and in the IBL for one season